18 Mar 2013

17 Yrs Married TN Disabled Wife Awarded $800 / Month Alimony In Futuro

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Tennessee alimony law case summary following 17 years of marriage. Divorce and alimony law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Keith M. Farnham v Donna M. Farnham – Tennessee Alimony Law – 17 years married.

In the case of Keith Farnham and Donna Farnham, the husband filed a complaint seeking a divorce from the wife, requesting that the 17-year marriage be declared void ab initio. The lower court denied the motion. Rather, it granted the wife’s counterclaim for divorce on the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct. It awarded the wife with periodic alimony. The husband appealed these decisions.

Married August 10, 1990, the couple separated in August of 2006. The marriage bore two sons. The husband filed the initial complaint for divorce in January of 2007. The two met while the wife’s divorce from a previous husband was pending, a fact she made the future husband aware. The couple agreed to marry after the divorce was finalized. They applied for a marriage license in June of 1990, in the same month but before the divorce hearing occurred as she assumed the proceedings would be concluded at that time. The original marriage continued until August of 1990. After being told she could do so, the wife married the husband in August of 1990, one day prior to the marriage license expiring. Both parties were aware of the situation at that time.

At the time of the lower court trial, the husband was 41 and the wife was 51. The husband was working for Molecular Pathology Laboratories as a technician. His gross income was $5,151 per month. This was a new job for the husband. He left the previous one with Trane, Inc for better hours and, although the hourly rate was better, he was not able to obtain overtime as he did previously. The wife had an associate degree in business management but had not worked in the previous 10 years. She began receiving Social Security Disability Benefits. The wife’s only source of income was a disability benefit of $1,135 per month. The lower court awarded the wife permanent alimony in the amount of $800 per month. The trial court found the husband was able to pay and the wife had a need for this alimony.

In August of 2008, the husband moved the court to reconsider its award as he had lost his new job as was unemployed. The court denied this motion and granted absolute divorce in the case. The husband appealed the decision.

The appeals court ruled that the divorce was valid, as the lower court ordered. It also divided the marital property and debt. In the element of permanent alimony, the husband contended that the court abused its discretion in this matter. The husband believed the wife, who received none of the parties’ martial debt and was receiving a consistent disability income, did not need spousal support.

The appeals court noted that the real need of the disadvantaged spouse seeking support is the most significant factor when awarding alimony. The trial court specifically stated it found the wife in need of funds and the husband had the ability to do so in awarding the wife alimony in futuro of $800 a month. The evidence brought forth in the appeal did not show that the trial court was inaccurate in its award. The proof indicated that the wife was deemed disabled by the federal government and was receiving disability prior to the marriage. Her condition did not allow her to obtain gainful employment and there is no evidence that supports this otherwise. The court found that the wife was $2,000 short each month on her expenses. The wife, who was 51 and disabled had no indication of a financial situation that would improve.

The appeals court does not believe that the awarding of the marital property reduces the need of the wife for spousal support. Without any physical or mental limitations, the court ruled that the husband had the ability to pay the support. As such, it affirmed the lower court’s ruling in this matter.

No. E2008-02243-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 29, 2009).

See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

To learn more, read Tennessee Alimony Law in Divorce | Answers to FAQs.  Also, for legal updates, news, analysis, and commentary, see our Tennessee Family Law Blog and its Alimony category.  A Memphis divorce lawyer from the Miles Mason Family Law Group can help.  To schedule your confidential consultation, call us today at (901) 683-1850.

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Memphis divorce and family lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr. is the founder of Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC. For more information about our professional staff, see our Meet the Team page.

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